In life, experiencing stress and tension is normal. But what happens when a certain thought becomes too overwhelming that it ends up taking over your entire headspace? As you walk through this journey, certain triggers are likely to happen every now and then. While these may set another episode in motion, it’s important to remain grounded and remember that it’s totally possible to recover.
How to Cope During an Episode
Encountering a depressive or manic episode is challenging (to say the least), as it brings with it a ton of negative feelings. Thankfully, you can lighten the burden and power through it with these helpful strategies.
Being in a good environment can make a world of difference to your mental health. As a study published in the Molecular Psychiatry Journal has found, your social environment plays a key role in determining your vulnerability during an episode. Once you’ve found your safe space with people who you can trust to look after you, it’s important to inform your doctors what you’re experiencing. Their guidance can help you understand what was triggering you, while also prescribing the proper medication for your current condition.
However, the most impactful differences come from you. Even the best advice in the world needs to be accompanied by effort. Take what you’ve learned from the professionals and apply it into practices of self-care. While self-care is often portrayed as something of a luxury made up of spa days and expensive treatments, it’s actually a powerful method to get in tune with yourself. From meditating to eating right, actively caring for your wellbeing can bring a sense of semblance back into your life. An easy step you can start with is establishing a healthy sleep schedule, since sleep deprivation can lead to a mood episode. All in all, when coping with your episode, remember that you’re strong enough to regain control over your symptoms.
Properly coping is easier said than done, as experiencing those heavy feelings can make you anxious to admit to yourself and others about what’s happening. Just like writer Melanie Luxenburg previously shared here, anxious thoughts have a way of convincing you to believe in your fears. To really overcome your episode, don’t let your anxiety trick you into thinking that you have to be ashamed of your condition.
A great way to effectively tackle those thoughts is by writing them down in a journal. According to a study from the University of Rochester Medical Center, this outlet helps you identify your stressors and figure out a plan on how to eliminate them. In this regard, you can write down why you’re scared, alongside reasons why you shouldn’t be. Remember: It’s a flaw in your chemistry, not your character. So, don’t invalidate yourself and your condition; after all, you can only grow through what you go through.
How Loved Ones Can Help
Family and friends play a key role in helping someone alleviate the symptoms of an episode. If your loved one is suffering from triggers, it’s important to offer your support. However, helping them navigate an episode can be tricky, but here’s what you need to know to aid their healing.
What your loved one needs from you is quite simple: Just be there for them. It’s important to understand that your loved one is not only struggling with the mental toll of their disorder, but also from the stigma that still surrounds it. Take the time to listen to what they say, and acknowledge what they feel. If you’re unsure how to go about things, you can always consult with their therapist on what type of support they need. This can be quite a heavy time, as the extreme highs and lows will be felt, but do take comfort in remembering that this is only temporary. Above all, your mere presence can make a significant impact in encouraging their recovery.
It’s vital that you don’t downplay the severity of the condition. It might be tempting to say that this is just an episode that will pass, but the severity of a bipolar episode isn’t something to take lightly. Maryville University’s core psychology courses highlight the complex aspects of human behavior, revealing how our psychological makeup can be influenced by biological and clinical factors. This means that mental illness is far from something a person can simply shrug off, and saying that they need to ‘wait it out’ or ‘think positive’ may make them feel powerless.
Last but not least, don’t forget to check on yourself too. A research study on the BMJ Publishing Group notes how family and friends can feel sadness or guilt over their loved one’s condition too. So keep in mind to talk to a professional if needed, and maintain healthy activities. At the end of the day, you can only take care of them when you yourself are in the right headspace.
Submitted by Amanda Crane
Written exclusively for ibpf.org